Cafayate: Wines and stunning landscapes in the northwest Argentina

It’s time to cross the ocean and discover new landscapes. We arrive in the north of Argentina, where we will visit a small city surrounded by vineyards and imposing mountains: Cafayate.

This city of 14,850 inhabitants is located in the Calchaquí Valley of the Province of Salta, in northwestern Argentina.

Cafayate was founded in 1840 by Manuel Fernando de Aramburú, following the will of his mother to build a shrine to the Virgen del Rosario. Today the quiet city is known for its high quality wines and the unique landscapes that surround it.

When arriving at the place the first thing that we see is the high mountains that enclose the Calchaquí Valley. The area is arid (its annual rainfall is around 186 millimeters per year) and the landscape is populated by small shrubs and many cacti.

This climate is very favorable for the development of the great vineyards that characterize the region.

Cafayate Mountains
Cafayate is surrounded by arid and high mountains.

You can walk Cafayate perfectly on foot. Its streets are quiet and many attractions are in the downtown area, within walking distance.

Although if we want to visit several wineries or neighboring landscapes, we must have some kind of transport.

The city is crossed by the National Route 40, the longest in Argentina that runs throughout the country from south to north.

Entrance Cafayate

From Cafayate to the northeast, part of National Route 68 that runs through the Quebrada de las Conchas (Conchas Gorge), a nature reserve with mountains of colors and formations as varied as amazing, and ends its journey in the city of Salta, capital of the province.

The main avenues of Cafayate are Bartolomé Mitre and General Güemes Norte. Both circulate in parallel across the city.

If you have time you can walk through these avenues from end to end. At its margins you can find craft shops, gifts, homemade products, wines and of course, a variety of restaurants.

Restaurants and sotres in main avenue Cafayate
Walking along the General Güemes North Avenue.

In the middle of these two avenues is the 20 de Febrero Square, a very pleasant green space, full of trees, tall palm trees and many places to rest.

At its margins we find numerous restaurants and bars with tables on the sidewalk or in the same street, which are usually filled with people on weekends or summer.

Plaza 20 de Febrero
20 de Febrero square
20 de Febrero Square.

On Bartolomé Mitre Avenue, to the west of the square, is the Cathedral of Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary). It was designed by the Catalan architect Pedro Coll and built between 1890 and 1895.

Inside it is the figure of Our Lady of the Rosary, in a position that simulates sitting. For this reason, the inhabitants of Cafayate know her as “La Sentadita”.

Nuestra Señora del Rosario catedral
Inside Cathedral Nuestra Señora del Rosario
Inside the cathedral.

To one side of the square also takes place the Artisan Market, which brings together artists from the province of Salta and northern Argentina, where you can find crafts in wood, pottery, silverware, ceramics and loom designs.

In the vicinity of the 20 de Febrero Square we also find the Artisanal Cafayate Fair, the casino and the Artisan Walk.

On Colón Street, a few meters from the square, the Rodolfo Bravo Regional Museum is located, where excavation and research works carried out by Rodolfo Bravo for 66 years are exhibited. It has an exhibition of material belonging to the diaguita and diaguito-calchaquí ethnic groups that inhabited the region.

Another of the city’s museums is the one created in the house of Calixto Mamaní, one of the most famous artists of the province. It is located on Rivadavia Street, 400 meters from 20 de Febrero square and exhibits paintings, sculptures and works in ceramics belonging to Mamaní.

Tipical house store in Cafayate
La última Pulpería

The Serenade Festival to Cafayate, one of the most important folk festivals in the country, takes place in mid-February. This 2019 will take place on February 21, 22 and 23, in the Payo Solá stage of the Encantada Winery, in the center of the city.

If you like activities in nature, Cafayate has many options for you. The city is located in the area known as Calchaquí Valleys, surrounded by two mountain ranges: the Sierra de Quilmes or the Cajón (to the west) and the Santa Bárbara Summit (to the east).

To the west of the city we have the hill Santa Teresita. We arrived at it after walking 2 kilometers from the center of Cafayate. When ascending to the hill we will be about 100 meters above the city. But if we want to get better views we will have to ascend to the hill San Isidro, which is behind it.

Ascend San Isidro demands much more time since its maximum height reaches 2,700 meters above sea level.

At the foot of San Isidro Hill is El Divisadero, a place where you can find cave paintings and remains of ancient settlements belonging to the Diaguitas Indians, who inhabited these lands until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. One of the sites with the greatest number of paintings is the so-called Cueva del Suri.

Very close to El Divisadero is the confluence of the Colorado and Lorohuasi rivers. Here there are several waterfalls with crystal clear waters that you can not miss.

If we cross the Chuscha River, which borders the north of Cafayate, we can find more interesting places to see.

Chuscha River
The Chuscha River is wide and sandy.

6 kilometers away from the downtown area is the old stone mill that was installed by Jesuit missionaries 350 years ago and that can mill no less than 200 kilos of grain.

To the northwest of Cafayate, a little further on from the mill, is San Pedro de Yacochuya, a place inhabited by descendants of ancient Aboriginal settlers and where some of the highest vineyards in the world are located, 2,000 meters above sea level. 

In the place there is a small lake and a large grove that invite you to walk. To get to San Pedro de Yacochuya, it is necessary to have a vehicle suitable for traveling on stony roads.

Winery and hotel in Cafayate

Now we are heading in the opposite direction. We began to travel along National Route 68 as we slowly left Cafayate. North of this road is the small airport of the city and little by little we get closer to Los Médanos, an area with white sand dunes that can reach heights of 25 and 30 meters.

From here, continuing on route 68 to the northeast we will cross the Quebrada de las Conchas, a gorge surrounded by arid mountains of surprising colors and shapes … perhaps one of the most imposing sites on the planet.

After the gorge, and several kilometers further on, we reach the city of Salta. Destinations that we will see later in IaniWorld 😉

Quebrada de las Conchas
Imposing landscape in the Conchas gorge.

Wines of Cafayate

Cafayate is known for having some of the highest vineyards in the world. Although the downtown area of the city is 1,625 meters (5,331 ft) above sea level, some of its vineyards are located at almost 2,000 meters (6,561 ft).

In fact, the world record is taken by a winery located in these same valleys, 150 kilometers (93 mi) north of Cafayate.

The dry and temperate climate of the region is conducive to the development of vineyards, especially the Torrontés variety, the most distinctive of the place. Although other strains are also produced such as Tanat, Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Bonarda, Barbera and Tempranillo.

Stony soils, cold winters and warm summers help to produce tall wines with unique fragrances, colors and aromas.

Winery and vineyard Cafayate

Along the Calchaquíes Valleys there is the so-called Wine Route, a 200-kilometer circuit where you can observe and learn about the history and production of internationally recognized wines.

In addition vineyards and wineries, Cafayate complements the offer of wine tourism with a museum dedicated to this industry.

Vineyards and muntains in the background

The Vine and Wine Museum is located a few meters from 20 de Febrero square, at the intersection of Güemes Sur and Fermín Perdiguero avenues.

Here we can learn more about the characteristics of local vineyards and the production of different types of wines, through a dynamic and interactive sample.

This museum operates from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Your ticket costs 100 pesos (2.30 euros).

Next we see the wineries located in the city and neighboring areas. Some of them provide tasting and even accommodation service.

Cactus and arid landscape
Cactus, vineyards and arid lands characterize the landscape.

Wineries in the center of Cafayate

A few meters from the Plaza 20 de Febrero, the main square of the city, we find the wineries Domingo Hermanos, Nanni, El Tránsito, Salvador Figueroa and El porvenir.

Wineries in the south and west of Cafayate

A few kilometers south of the downtown area, crossing the Lorohuasi River, we find the Finca Quara and Etchart wineries.

Meanwhile, to the west of the city and at the foot of the San Isidro Hill, Finca Las Nubes winery is located.

Wineries in the north of Cafayate

Distributed by different places north of the city, we have the Vasija Secreta, El Esteco, Patios de Cafayate, Tierra Colorada, Don Roberto Wines, Don Aurelio, Trasoles, Piatelli and Domingo Molina wineries.

Barriles en bodega Vasija Secreta
Barrels inside the Vasija Secreta cellar.
Barrels in Vasija Secreta winery

Gastronomy and accommodation

In the downtown area of the city are located the largest number of restaurants. The offer is wide, these are some: Gourmet Restaurant Terruño (gourmet cuisine), Restaurant and Peña de La Plaza (typical foods of the region, kid meat, folk music shows), La Casa de las Empanadas (empanadas typical of the region), Parrilla El Criollo (steakhouse), El Rancho (typical dishes, meats), El Zorrito (pizzas, pastas, vegetarian food), El Parador de Tolombón (specialty in meats, brewery, sale of cheeses and sweets).

The best restaurants in Cafayate according to Tripadvisor are La Rosa, Piattelli Winery, Grace Cafayate Restaurant, Hotel Viñas Restaurant and Pueblo Mío.

Restaurants near 20 de Febrero square
The central square is surrounded by many restaurants.

Cafayate has good hotel establishments, with different options of prices, comforts and quality.

The most luxurious are Grace Cafayate, Altalaluna Hotel Boutique & Spa, La Casa de la Bodega Wine Boutique Hotel, Viñas de Cafayate, Patios de Cafayate and Casa del Sol. The price of one night can be around 100 euros.

Some medium-priced establishments are Paseo Las Vinas, Hosteria Tía Florita, Hotel Plaza Cafayate, Hostal La Montaña, Cafayate Backpakers and Hostel Don Benito, among many others. Spending the night in them costs 55 euros approximately.

Among the most economical are Cafayate Esperanto, Lo de Pañalba, Guest House, Hostería Dos Soles, Hostel Ruta 40, Hostería el Herrero and Hostal Aires de Cafayate. The price of one night in here starts at around 18 euros.

Outside bar, winery Vasija Secreta

Transport

Cafayate is located on National Route 40, which runs from south to north through the Calchaquíes Valleys. In the northern limit of the city National Route 68 starts, that links Cafayate with Salta, crossing the Quebrada de Las Conchas.

To visit places far from the central area of Cafayate, it is advisable to hire an excursion service in the cities of Salta or Cafayate. Many are cheap and take us to visit the most remote places such as the Quebrada de las Conchas and some winery. Another option is to rent a vehicle and make the trip on our own.

We can connect Cafayate with the city of Salta by bus. The Flecha Bus company provides the service. The journey requires about 4 hours of travel and costs 330 pesos per section (7.75 euros). In Salta, capital of the homonymous province, we have buses to different parts of Argentina and neighboring countries, as well as an international airport.

On the other hand, if we want to join Cafayate with towns located further south, such as Tolombón, Amaichá del Valle or Tafí del Valle, we will have to take the Aconquija Transport buses, which connect that region.

This is the end of our journey today through this small but charming city in the northwest of Argentina. Many interesting destinations in the region await us 😉

Map of Cafayate city and nearby areas.
Cafayate is located in the Calchaquí Valleys..
Map attractions center of Cafayate.
The biggest activity is near 20 de Febrero Square.
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